Kenyatta calls for ‘African’ solutions over Nile waters dispute

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for “African solutions” in identifying the workable share of the River Nile waters.

At a meeting with Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde in Nairobi on Thursday, President Kenyatta said he understood the rising populations in the Nile Basin demanded changes on the formula of sharing the water resources, but did suggest discussions about that should be by Africans themselves.

“The two Heads of State discussed the challenges facing the Nile River basin and emphasised the need for pursuing African solutions to African Problems,” a dispatch from State House said.

The mantra of African solutions was created by the African Union five years ago, but the leaders’ reference to it came in the wake of recent discussions between the Ethiopian government, Sudan and Egypt on how to ensure the Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) in Ethiopia does not harm the flow of water to Egypt, which relies on it for its irrigation.

A communique from the meeting indicated the Ethiopian leader had come to update the Kenyan President on negotiations between the three countries, which showed cracks last week.

“The President [Sahle-Work] also underscored Ethiopia’s commitment to continue working with all Nile Basin countries and to ensure that only treaties that are properly entered into by the countries will apply to the basin.

President Uhuru Kenyatta underlined the need for Africa to sustainably utilise its natural resources to address the needs of its increasing populations,” a communique issued after the meeting said.

“The President also emphasised the importance of ensuring equitable and reasonable utilisation of natural resources. The two leaders agreed on the importance of reaching a resolution in the spirit of African Solutions to African Problems and concurred on the need for the African Union to support the countries reach a win-win outcome,” the dispatch added.

The three countries, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, had been discussing the ratios in Washington in talks sponsored by the United States, and facilitated by the World Bank, the financier of the project estimated to produce about 6,000 megawatt of power when all its intended turbines are at full function.

However, a fortnight ago, the countries appeared to differ on whether the initial agreement on the filling of the dam had actually been filled.

Egypt went ahead to put initials on the draft document, which in diplomatic terms signals an end to negotiations. Ethiopia which skipped the last talks two weeks ago rejected Washington’s offer to sign the pact, arguing there had been no final draft yet.

Last week, Egypt tabled a proposal to the Council of Ministers of the Arab League, showing the bloc would not accept any proposals that violated Egypt’s rights to the waters.

A communique the Council of the 22 member-state bloc issued last week said the bloc supported Egypt’s rejection of any “infringement against Egypt’s historical rights to the water resources of the River Nile.”

The Arab League statement further rejected any “unilateral measures” that Ethiopia might take in this regard—meaning Ethiopia’s move to fill the dam before reaching any final agreement.

Sudanese officials, however, refused to endorse the stand, saying it could jeopardise Arab-Ethiopian relations.

Dismayed by the Arab league’s decree, the Ethiopian government on Friday issued a statement, accusing the League of "giving a blind support to a member state [Egypt] without taking into account facts at the centre of the GERD talks."

Ethiopia is the source of nearly 80 per cent of the River Nile waters, although the Nile basin includes other countries like Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Kenyan and Ethiopian leader also said they discussed bilateral issued between them.